If the irritants that are causing the eczema are known, the best treatment is to avoid them. For example soaps, washing powders, bubble baths and shampoos, as well as any chemicals you may work wit, may be the cause.
There are many products for eczema available without prescription from a pharmacist. These are usually emollients, which work by reducing water loss from the skin to keep it moist. They can be applied directly to the skin as creams or lotions. A good time to apply a cream is just after a bath. Oils or washes are also available that can be used in the shower or added to the bath.
Seborrhoeic eczema may be treated with creams or shampoos which contain anti-fungal medication or compounds containing selenium or coal tar are often effective. Putting mittens on babies can also help stop them scratching.
If emollients alone dont treat the condition, the next step is to use a steroid cream or ointment. Steroids calm flare-ups of eczema by suppressing the bodys inflammatory response. There are different strengths of steroid and should be used for only a few days at a time. Apply them sparingly and use the mildest cream that works. Only mild steroids should ever be applied to the face. Using too much steroid cream can cause thinning of the skin, making it more fragile and leading to blemishes, wrinkles or visible small blood vessels. Mild steroid creams, such as 1% hydrocortisone, are available over the counter from the chemist, but stronger ones need a prescription from a doctor. Emollients should still be used at the same time as steroid creams. The pharmacist will be able to give you more advice.
Antihistamine tablets or medicines may be prescribed to reduce the itching of eczema. These may be sedating for night use, or non-sedating for use during the day.
Antibiotics may be needed if there is a bacterial infection complicating the eczema.
Severe eczema may occasionally need treatment with steroid medication in the form of tablets.
Hospital admission may be necessary in very severe cases. Sometimes the affected skin may need to be wrapped in bandages soaked with diluted potassium permanganate solution.